Diary of Midshipman N K Calder
September 1 Saturday.
I received a very welcome letter from Mrs Living saying I had to come & stay with them and to treat it as my English home. It was very kind of her and I wrote back an answer to her invitation. I saw the Captain and he was quite alright about it and said he would write again and said it would be much better. It is nice to know you have somewhere to go to. I did a gunnery dog watch lecture in the forenoon and we had the shoot charts or records explained to us. After lunch I loafed nearly all afternoon and played bridge & won most of the time. The submarine K 8 came alongside & they are always interesting to me. It drizzled most of the day. There were no subs in for dinner as they all dined out & of course we had a good time. After dinner I played bridge again and won & then I turned in at about ten. We were paid at noon. I got £3. I received my collars back from the laundry but they were done very badly & weren't half ironed.
I did a few trips in the launch with church parties during the forenoon. I kept the afternoon watch. The day was rather windy and the river quite rough. A boat load of Australians and New Zealanders came aboard after tea but I couldn't get any to show round. They were a fine lot to. I had to do the ships visitors trip which took some time & I heard the news about a slight action this early morning. The Comus was out with the rest of the 4th LC.s covering destroyers off the Belgian coast. They were attacked by two planes but they were driven off. The Comus rammed & sunk a submarine & cut up five mines by its P.V. I don't think that it is wrong. The K 8 has shoved off. I kept the first watch & after I finished my book "Simon the Jester" a very fine book but which ended pretty rotten, I turned in about 10-30. Another mail is due as it is over a week since the last arrived and I hope one arrives shortly. The wind died down a lot during the night.
Same as old routine. I went away in the launch before divisions and we did navigation till 10-30. After that Lieutenant Dove explained the 6" control again to us. In the afternoon we looked over the last exam papers which were pretty stiff. After that I wrote a short note home to Mother & included Mrs Living’s letter. After tea we had a torpedo dog watch lecture which lasted till about ¼ to 7. It was rather interesting however about PVs & mines & sweeps. After dinner I played bridge but lost slightly & I turned in about ten as we go out in the Flow tomorrow. We are getting four more junior snotties and I have heard that they are by a pretty poor lot. I would rather them stay away as it will be a bit of a crowd. The Russians are going to abandon Riga so I suppose that will be the end of everything as regards to help from Russia. There was a meeting of boy scouts ashore today to welcome Baden Powell.
We got underway early this morning and went out for our usual firing. I turned out at 5-45 as 6" control went but I turned in again as starboard side wasn't wanted. We weren't wanted till 10-30 & then we did some lining and checking etc. I was the only officer in my battery. We did some rather good shooting. I went up on the bridge at 12-15 and stayed up the it till we anchored. In the afternoon we controlled 1" and then some of us did 3 pdr firing until we had a missfire. I played cards until about 6-30 and so far I have managed to win nearly all the time. We got back to our usual place about 5-00. I have to collect the money to pay the Benbow and I am gradually collecting it. I was MOD but I didn't do anything and turned in about 10-00. The new midshipmen so I hear are a pretty rotten lot. No mail for us yet. Our light forces are getting all the small work that is going on. We do nothing.
We had gym before breakfast and we did signals all forenoon. After lunch I went over to the Ajax to witness the officers boxing but it wasn't up to much. Cunningham got second in the Feathers and there were two or three knockouts. A parson won his weight. De Robeck presented the prizes and made a speech. We returned about 4-00. I did some engineering sketches after tea and then tidied up for dinner. After dinner I had a smoke and then turned in & read a bit as I have the morning watch tomorrow. The Battle Cruisers are out. There was another air raid. 108 sailors were killed at Chatham I think & 68 wounded. These raids are getting pretty deadly. I received a letter from Gieves saying that my order would be attended to. Received a sarcastic chit from the Commander N re ourselves saying we had to get on or get out he didn't mind which, but we take FA notice of what he says.
I did navigation all forenoon. During the day all of the new midshipmen, four of the Hawk term joined the ship and they are all rather small, in fact one is about half the size of Maclean and looks like Broadhurst. I kept watch & watch and kept the morning. We were put on short notice 2 hrs at midnight and it was removed about 4-00 p.m. In the afternoon I drew a sketch of the forward hydraulic pipe system, and I kept the afternoon and last dog. Mr Stevenson is leaving the ship and his relief of the same name arrived on board. We had a signal exercise at nine & I turned in about ten and had a bit of a scruff with a Mr Burridge before turning in. I have got the bad habit of talking in my sleep and I wake them up. I wish I could get a out of it. The Russians are still falling back & Petrograd is in the military area now. Great bombing raids by us have taken (place?). British hospitals have also been bombed.
A very fine day. We had GQs and I was in charge of the Starboard battery. We packed up at 11-00. I received a bulletin from Gladys but no letters have arrived yet. I expect a parcel any day now. I went ashore at 3-45 and took the Commander’s pup with me. I had some fruit at the Queensferry & met the others. I went for a short walk and returned on board about ¼ to 8. There isn't much war news. The Russians are still retreating. After dinner I had one game of cards & then turned in and read. Kimlin was over here with the picket boat and we had a yarn. He is trying to get into the RNAS and said inquiries are being made. The Battle cruisers are back. There is no activity here and things are pretty slow. I don't think we will get on leave before the 28th of the month. I finished the book I was reading entitled Don Orsino and it was very good. We had some nice fruit and chocolate in the mess tonight but the prices were pretty high, fruit 2 & 3 & choc 2 & 3 (pence?).
I wrote up some gunnery notes during the forenoon & read the papers. The Russians are still on the retreat and the fleet is in Riga. No mail yet although papers & parcels are turning up. In the afternoon I played bridge and loafed around & after quarters I played deck hockey. Three Anzacs beat three of the others. It made me pretty stiff & tired & blistered my feet. I had a hot bath after it and Larkins shaved off my side whiskers. After dinner I kept the first watch and after that I played 21 and came out winning. The submarine K 4 tied up alongside the starboard side & emitted large volumes of black smoke. No. 1 had his wife & another young lady over to see it, as his brother is the navigator & they were very nice. I turned in early as I was very tired. There is really nothing at all to put in a diary as one day goes on the same as the one before.
I kept the forenoon watch and it was rather a bore but the day was very warm & sunny. Arbuthnot took my photo and he says it isn't too bad. After lunch I played bridge and then after tea I kept the first dog. We had a bit of a lecture on the way to approach Hawes Pier in the picket boat and also he told us to find out about the ship itself. I received a parcel from Gladys which included some cigarettes, chocolate and a pair of socks & some cake, but the cake wasn't too good after the voyage. After supper which is the best meal in the week I loafed around and as we intend to go out tomorrow I turned into early. The Australia went into dock today the Erin having come out early this morning. We are expected to go in about three weeks. The K 4 shoved off during the evening & thanked the R S for entertaining them during at the weekend.
Some Australian mail arrived both mails but there were none for me so I suppose I will get mine tomorrow. I started to write up my Admiralty sight and I then went to 6" starboard where we lined up etc. In the afternoon we didn't do anything but I played bridge a bit and started my letter home. We had to go up on the forecastle and watched them mooring which was done fairly well. We had a navigation dog watch lecture and I played more bridge. After dinner I wrote Gladys a letter, and also did a bit of seamanship and then I turned in at 10. We went to 2½ hours notice late this evening. Larkins received a letter from Commander Grant and it was a very good letter and no one would ever guess that it was written by an Englishman. Everything is going well at the college & Jimmy has good hopes for the football season. As the fog was pretty thick we didn't go out today.
Received my mail this morning, two from Mother two from Gladys, one from Eric, Edie & Cranmer. I went to 6" control during the forenoon and finished off my Admiralty sight. We were at 2½ hours notice till quarters when we OOQd except the 5th BS. In the afternoon we did signals all afternoon and I wrote my letters. Everyone at home is alright & things are looking up. After tea I looked round the ship a bit and we had a gunnery dog watch lecture, making up an analysis chart from data supplied. I played a game of bridge and after dinner I wrote my letters and turned in about 10-00 p.m. It was quite cool this evening in fact rather chilly. We don't seem to be showing any signs of going into the basin. The Russians will soon be having civil war. Korniloff wants supreme power & Kerensky says he is a traitor. Korniloff is marching on Petrograd so soon there will be a bustup.
I very nice day. I kept watch and watch starting with the forenoon. I posted my letters to Gladys & Eric & wrote ones to Mother & Edie. In the forenoon we did signals and we had the afternoon in which I wrote my letters. I kept the first dog and played a few hands of bridge. After dinner I played bridge. It was our band night. The crisis in Russia is approaching and the end of the week ought to see the start of it. I turned in fairly early. News at present is very stale & nothing has occurred. We have the Prince & Strongbow alongside our starboard side. I received a Herald that Eric sent me. The Commander N has been more quiet of late and I think it suits him better. My photos that Arbuthnot took aren't so bad after all. All I'm looking forward to now is the end of the war & when we get back to Australia.
I posted letters to Mother Edie & Cranmer. During the rest of the forenoon I went to 6" control & read mostly all the rest of the forenoon. It blew up during the afternoon and the destroyers shoved off as we are going out tomorrow. We went to seamanship in the afternoon and Mr Walker explained the last paper for midshipman. For once I learnt something in seamanship. I played bridge during the rest of the afternoon and also after dinner but my luck has been out for the last week. I turned in about 10 o'clock as the starboard battery has a good bit of work to do tomorrow. We didn't have any divisions owing to some muck-up in gunnery. Korniloff is within 18 miles of Petrograd & all the generals are going over to his side. The Emperor of India came out of dock this afternoon but I think we have to wait till the Canada comes out before we go into the basin.
I got up at 6-00 a.m. & we were just about to pass under the bridge. 6" control was sounded off at 6-30 & we did some sub calibre firing. After breakfast I watched them dropping the PVs. It was blowing fairly hard all morning but I didn't go up on the bridge. We had more 6" control and after that I watched them hoisting in PVs. We tried to do some .45" (4.5"?) shooting after lunch but we were swung unfavourably so we couldn't do it. The 2 BCS. went out while we were at anchor. We weighed at 2-45 and came in. I played deck hockey after tea and after dinner we had a signal exercise which is to take place every Friday night now at 9-15 p.m. I did fairly rotten at it. I turned in at 10 p.m. but I had a rotten night and hardly got any sleep at all. Korniloff’s staff is deserting him so they say, so perhaps the civil war will not take place. The Strongbow came alongside again as soon as we returned.
We had the whole day off and I didn't have any watches to keep. During the forenoon I wrote a letter to Auntie Jo and read mostly all the rest of the afternoon. Today wasn't very warm at times. In the afternoon I had to go down & check the gyro I finished up about 4-00 p.m. In the afternoon I didn't do anything as I was rather tired not having had any sleep last night. I received the six PCs of myself but they aren't printed very well. The court of inquiry was held on Mr Day aboard the Resolution re the C in C finding the liberty men disorderly at King's Pier. Hirst had to go and give evidence. I don't know what the result was. I turned in soon after dinner as I have the morning watch tomorrow. We received a letter from Major Drapkin tobacco company saying that we had to have a form filled in by the C.O. before we could be supplied with the cigarettes. We are expected to go to Scapa any day now.
I had the morning watch and got up at 10 to six. We were put at 2½ hrs notice at 6-30 a.m. and we had to open sealed orders at 8-00 a.m. We had Church on the QD and I played some bridge & read mostly all the rest of the forenoon. We had 6" control and I had to go up to the spotting top but didn't do anything. The 4th BS weighed at 1-30 and steamed out. Also the 4th & 2nd LCS left. At about 3-00 the 3rd BS weighed followed by the 2nd BS & then followed by us. The Q E lead the 3rd BS & the Agincourt brought up the rear of the 2nd BS. The clocks were put back an hour. We passed under the bridge at 3-30 GMT. The battlecruisers & 5th BS & all destroyers & LCs had left. I went up on the FX & we dropped PVs successfully. At about 4-30 we picked up our destroyers. We are doing about 16 knots. We steered past the port side of May Island and I had the submarine lookout in the spotting top from 5-30 to 7-30. We ran into a heavy fog bank for about ¼ of an hour. I was told to pack up at 7-00 & I had supper. I closed up in the GCT for night defence at 8 & kept the 1st being relieved by Maclean at 9-00. The night was very fine and no breeze.
I got up at 7-00 and had my bath and had breakfast at 7-30. Today was a beautiful day with a gentle breeze blowing but during the forenoon mist would come over & obscure the horizon. We went to action stations and 8-30 & we were going to fire smoke shells but we didn't do it. We picked up the enemy about 10-00 & PZd all morning. We packed up at 12-30 & then we had lunch. I went up to the spotting top as submarine lookout at 2-00 but GQs sounded off soon after so I went down to the battery where we idled around doing nothing. We picked up the battle cruisers & 5th BS at 2-30 and we carried out manoeuvres. We packed up at 3-45 & then we parted company from the BCs & steered for Scapa. We picked up land at 5-00 p.m. and we got in PVs at 7-30 alright & we anchored in D line about 8-00 p.m. in old Scapa once again. I saw some good sights in the PZ, a couple of airships being up, an aeroplane, & also submarines were steaming with us, but nothing hostile was sighted during the whole show. We are going to do a big shoot on Thursday and we are going down to dock next Monday I think.
Rather cold weather up here and it was blowing nearly all the day. During the forenoon I had to assist in testing the telescopes of the 6" guns and it took up all the time. We raised steam in the afternoon and we concentrated with the rest of the squadron. I kept a couple of watches on the forebridge, taking bearings & potting position on chart nearly all the time. We anchored about 4-30 and we took in dummy 15" shells for our firing on Thursday. I turned in early as I have the morning tomorrow but I was turned out about 9-30 & told to go up to the gunroom where it seems the rest of us had refused to see Thompson beaten. All the rest except the 3 subs cleared out of the gunroom & the five of us excluding Thompson who was out side told Denny we would not take the cuts and told him a few truths. We demanded to be taken before the Commander and we were and the Commander said we had to obey Denny but Denny had to have his permission to give us cuts. With that I turned in.
I did navigation all forenoon. I had the morning watch and it rained a bit. In the afternoon we did signals and we had a torpedo dog watch lecture. It was our band night and I played bridge up till 10pm winning at last since a couple of weeks. Whilst on watch in the last dog Mr Gill came aboard and I had a few words with him. I would rather be down at Rosyth now I am up here again. One could go ashore there at any rate and the surroundings are much better. There is nothing to do up here. Besides the battle fleet & cruisers, there are two of the Minatoar (Minotaur) class as well. The rumour is that we are going down south on Saturday and going on leave on Monday. There doesn't seem to be any strained relations existing between us & the subs, everything being the same as before. We are firing in the battery tomorrow as well as the 15" and we are allowed about eight rounds a gun or more if necessary.
We didn't weigh till an hour after we were going to. We left the flow about 8-00 a.m. and we dropped PVs as soon as we were outside. The day wasn't a very good one & it was blowing fairly hard. GQs went at 8-30 - 9-00 & a half an hour later the 15" fired. I was in the battery so I didn’t see anything but the shock was pretty strong. By all accounts the shoot was most successful a straddle being obtained the 2nd salvo. After the 15", the 6" fired Port side first. Owing to no cordite being got up fast enough the salvos we(re) very thin, sometimes one gun firing. We fired starboard after that and we got up ours beforehand. Consequently everything went off well but the spotting corrections were awful. We returned in time for lunch. In the afternoon I played bridge and helped Lt Stephenson with the records of the 6". Denny and Dicken celebrated their 21st birthdays tonight and plenty of drinks & songs were drunk & sung. I turned in about 10-30. We were told by the Commander about saluting officers when they come up on deck.
Some Australian mail arrived today but none for me yet. We didn't do any gym and I was MOD. We did seamanship and after I had a game of bridge. I went up to censoring after lunch and in the afternoon I had to go to the gunnery office and help with the 6" records which were very bad. The 15" shoot was splendid & 26 hits were secured. After tea I played deck hockey & the side I was on won. I had a bath & cleaned up for dinner and after dinner I had to go down and help again with the 6" records thereby missing the weekly signalling exercise. It is pretty certain that we go down south tomorrow and on leave on Sunday but I hope it is put off till Monday. The weather up here is very rotten, squally, rainy & on the cold side but they say that it is much better up here in the winter than down at Rosyth. The inter-squadron races were put off till Saturday.
I received a letter from Mother, one from Gladys & one from Eric and also some N.O.Ws. (??) The day turned out to be very windy but we weighed at noon. I had the forenoon and so I was pretty busily engaged. We pitched and rolled a bit on our way down and the wind was very fierce but the sea wasn't very bad. We were conveyed by two destroyers & they had a rough time of it. I kept from 2 till 4 in the spotting top as submarine lookout but didn't see anything. I was paid £3 by the purser and was given £2/4/6 as my dividend from mess profits. I didn't do anything till 8-00 when B watch closed up for night control but at 10-00 control was taken over by the forebridge so I packed up and turned in. We have to disembark ammunition at 4-00 a.m. tomorrow and we all leave by the 3pm train. I got Gartrell to pack my bags & I am going to travel down in my No. 2s so as to save my No. 1s.
I got up at 4-00 a.m. when the hands were called and we were passing through the gates of the Forth. We anchored about 4-30 a.m. just off Rosyth. All the battle cruisers are past the bridge now. We started to disembark ammunition. I was at No.1 hoist on forecastle and up till 10-00 we were hoisting out cordite. There were no accidents. We got into the basin about midday after bumping the lock a bit and we heard that the 3-00 train was cancelled. However we got into dock about 1-30 and I left the ship about 4-00 & caught the train to Edinburgh. I could have gone down to London at 7-00 or 10-00 p.m. but I would have got down very early in the morning so I decided to spend the night in Edinburgh. Larkins & I got a room at the Waverly hotel. 9/6 for a double room, reduced fare for naval officers. The room was an excellent one. With Thompson & Hirst who also stayed we had dinner at the Caledonian 6/- and then we arranged for our luggage & I sent a telegram to Mr Living. Then about 9-00 we turned in and I slept like a Trojan. I think it was the best thing to stay in Edinburgh for the night.
Well I got up at 8-15 and had a hot bath. Then Larkins & I went down for breakfast. Our luggage was taken to the train. I paid the bill and we had our seats secured by the porter in the train. It left at 10-00 a.m. & went by the East coast. There were a couple of WOs in the carriage & and a couple of military officers got in. Hirst and Thompo went down in the same train. We noticed a lot of aeroplanes up. I arrived at King's Cross at 7-28 p.m. and found my way to the tube where I got the tube to Finsbury Park. I caught the right train & soon found the house. Miss Living met me at the door & I was introduced all round to Mr Living & his nephew. I had a terribly big dinner and they were all very kind and made me feel quite at home. Whilst in the train all light were put out and while we were having dinner the guns started firing, an air raid was in progress. I would liked to have gone out & seen it. It lasted for about half an hour. The moon was up. Well after dinner I had a smoke and a yarn & turned in about 11-00. My room is very comfortable.
Well I didn't get up till nine o'clock and had a good breakfast. I think I have never had such big meals since I left home. The casualties announced of last night's air raid were 15 killed 75 wounded. I wrote a 12 page letter home giving the details of my trip here. In the afternoon Miss Living and myself took the bus into London and we passed a good many historic places including Trafalgar Square, War Office, Westminster Abbey and then we went to do some shopping. I ordered a pair of boots 30/- at Gieves & left my watch at a good watch makers to be mended. I saw where a bomb was dropped last night & we returned home about 6-30. Still another air raid occurred again about 7-00 p.m. and the guns were firing fiercely but I couldn't see anything although I heard a machine. I think they will come every night whilst the moon is up. I had a smoke & turned in about 10-30. I called in at Venns but when I put my head inside the door I saw a lot of womans underwear hanging up so I made a hurried retreat.
I didn't get up till about 9-30 this morning and after breakfast I went down the town and had my hair trimmed and also had my first shave. I also went for a walk with Mr Living. In the afternoon I took the tube into London and called in at the Strand Palace. I had left a message for Thompson but he didn't get it so I didn't see him. I went for a bus ride and I was too late for any matinees so I dropped in to a cinema and then I went into Westminster Abbey but I got their just as they were closing so I didn't see much of it. I returned about six and it started to drizzle. There was a bit of a wind high up so I suppose it stopped the air raids. I had a good dinner and almost finished my letter home. I wrapped up my parcel for Mollie with the assistance of Mr Living or as I call him Uncle. I also wrote a letter to Madame Venns telling them to make me a pair of garters. I turned in a little after ten and I am having a very good time indeed.
I got up earlier than usual and had a warm bath. Then I posted my letters and also the parcel to Mollie. I sent a letter to Madame Venns and I hope it gets there alright. After lunch Uncle an I went to the Hippodrome to the play called Zig-Zag where George Robey was performing. We had front seats and it was a very good play indeed and I quite enjoyed it. Whilst we were having dinner I got word through the phone that Thompo would be at the hotel so I went in their after dinner and we had a good yarn. We went to Chu Chin Chow and it was very good. After the show he showed me his room and I left there about 11-15 arriving home a little after twelve. There was no air raid although it was a beautiful moonlight night. I suppose it was too bright for them. Everybody expected one. All the children go down to the tubes after dark and it is impossible to travel by tube at night. I have noticed very few naval officers in London.
Got up at the usual time and went with Miss Living down the town whilst she did her shopping. In the afternoon I went to the Commonwealth Bank and drew out £15. I have £12/10 still in the bank to my credit. After that I went to the museum but it was closed down. I then went to the Monument and climbed up to the top. It is very high when you get to the top and it is a task climbing to the top. After that I went into St Paul's Cathedral but they started a service whilst I was there. The voices reverberate in the cathedral. And after that I went to Westminster Abbey and paid 1/- and looked over the Royal Chapels and also the wax figures and it was extremely interesting. After that I came home and I didn't go out after dinner but had a smoke and a read. I only wish is that I had someone of my own age to go around with. I received my watch back from Desboys and it is going alright and has been polished up.
I got up at 10 and had a bath. It was a beautiful day and I loafed and read all of the forenoon. In the afternoon I went to the zoological gardens and saw all the animals. It is a very good zoo. I had afternoon tea there and returned about five. After dinner I went into the Empire and saw Topsy Turvy and it was very good. Ivy Schilling & Fred Leslie gave two good dances. About 9-00 I heard there was another air raid on but I didn't hear much as I was inside. When I went home by the tube all people were crowding down underneath. I reached home about ¼ to 12 and the "All Clear" signal had not been given. It seems they were over this way and dropped a bomb a few miles away. I turned in a little after twelve. I wish I could find someone to knock around with. It isn't half as good going around by oneself. Some Italian general was at the play last night with a rear admiral who had been wounded.
I didn't go out all day. In the morning I loafed around and in the afternoon I played croquet with Uncle, Miss Living & a son of the Doctors. We had a good game and had tea at five. I wrote a letter home to Gladys and whilst in the middle of it an air raid took place. It was rather fierce and shrapnel exploded overhead and I could see the flashes of it. I could hear the aeroplanes quite distinctly but I couldn't see any of them. It started at 7-30 and lasted till after nine. It ceased when rockets were fired into the air. I think they did a good bit of damage. I showed Uncle & Miss Living a few card tricks and turned in about 11. I finished my letter to Gladys before doing so. I wish I had someone to knock around with as it's pretty lonely on ones own. We had supper about 10 o'clock rather late for a meal I thought.
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© Michael Calder February 2003